Intraspecific Interactions

Little blue penguin communicating to others. Photo taken by Nicola Barnard The little blue penguin is consistently reacting and interacting with other little blue penguins that reside in their colony. The little blue penguin prefers to live in colonies were their burrows are only 2 to 3 meters apart from other burrows (Waas 1988). They are a very social bird and use an array of vocal calls to communicate with other members of the colony (Chung 2011, Waas 1988). The little blue penguin is very vocal and that is a major form of their communication. Joseph Waas explains that three calls are commonly heard in a little blue penguin colony. The first one is a male solo call which is used by an unmated male trying to find a mate. The second call that can be heard is a territorial mutual display, which is heard during a territory invasion or after a fight. The third call that could be heard is a sexual mutual display, which precedes copulation. The sexual displays can be distinguished from other calls due to the male drumming his flippers on the back and sides of the female (Waas 1988). Communication is very important amongst the members of the colony. Each penguin creates a unique song that is used for communication between mates and offspring amongst the chatter of the other colony members (Chung 2011). The male can be very protective of its territory (burrow) which can cause intraspecific encounters with other blue penguins (Waas 1990).  After a victory, a male will display “triumph calls” to other members of the colony showing their victory and dominance (Mouterde et al 2012, Waas 1988). These calls are not signs of dominance for mating purposes rather just to brag to the colony of a victory (Mouterde et al 2012). The female can also be very protective of its’ borrow as well. They will fend off intruders especially if they are guarding their young (Mouterde et al 2012). The little blue penguins generally choose a life-long mate when they reach the age of maturity (see Reproduction for more info).

Group of little blue penguins. Photo taken by Nicola Barnard.


Interspecific Interactions

Little blue penguin swimming in the water. Photo taken by Owen SpargoThe little blue penguin, being the smallest bird in the penguin family, has a lot of predators. Some of the animals that are constantly feeding on the little blue penguin are fur seals, sharks, and gulls (Clemens et al 2011). Some predators that the penguin faces on land are ferrets and dogs, and in the sea killer whales have also been known to hunt little blue penguins (Clemens et al. 2011). The attack on the population that has had the most devastating effect is from unnatural predators such as dogs and ferrets (Clemens et al. 2011). Ferrets and dogs have been introduced to the penguins’ environment, and the blue penguins is an easy target (Chung 2011). Peter Dann explains that little blue penguins travel to the sea and back in groups to avoid being singled out by a predator. They also use the time of day to avoid detection. The penguins usually travel from their burrow to the ocean at dawn and return at dark. This helps to avoid detection from predators (Dann 2013).  The little blue penguin does have an advantage when it is in the ocean. The white color on their stomach helps to camouflage them from a predator looking up at them in the ocean. Also the dark blue on their backs helps to blend them in from predators that are looking down on them. On land these colors do not really help them to blend into their environment as much, which makes them really vulnerable on land. The little blue penguin is vulnerable to many different parasites whether it is fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and lice (Roscoe 2013). These parasites do minor damage to their hosts, but can create bigger problems by spreading harmful viruses to the penguin (Roscoe 2013). Some of these viruses have been found to be very lethal to the penguin population (Roscoe 2013).

Little blue penguin running on sand. Photo taken by Nicola Barnard.Little blue penguin with one wing. Photo taken by Nicola Barnard.

Human Interactions

Adult little blue penguin being banded for scientific purposes. Photo taken be Steve AttwoodHumans have had positive and negative effects on the little blue penguin population throughout the years. Some negative effects humans have indirectly imposed on the penguin population was the introduction of invasive species to their habitat (van Dooren 2011). Some of these invasive species are foxes and dogs (Roscoe 2013, van Dooren 2011). These species were brought to Australia by humans and have caused penguin mortality which has forced some colonies to take refuge on islands for safety (van Dooren 2011). Also the growth of the human population is destroying the little blue penguin’s natural coastal habitat (Roscoe 2011, Dann 2013, van Dooren 2011). Humans are building homes and roads on the penguin’s habitat and fishing industries are making food shortages for the penguins as well (Dann 2013). Another negative factor that has a devastating effect on the penguins is human pollution such as oil spills (Roscoe 2013). This loss of habitat causes problems for the penguins because they are closer to dangerous human activity such as traffic, and forced to build their burrows amongst human chaos (van Dooren 2011). Some positive effects humans have on the little penguin are abundant as well.   Humans are realizing that the penguin population is decreasing so they are preserving natural habitat such as creating safe nesting boxes to serve as a burrow for the penguins (Herber et al. 2008). These safe boxes provide a safe burrow for the penguins and also help with research (Herber et al. 2008) Tourist also come from all over the world to watch the penguin’s parade to the sea and back to their burrows (Chung 2011).  

Little blue penguins crossing a road at night. Photo was taken by Nicola Barnard

We were not able to gather all this information by ourselves, check out the references that helped make this website more educational!

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